Ghost Strata explores the differing scales of impact that humanity’s presence has on the earth in the past, present and into the future. Found sound and text create a meditation on time, memory, leftovers and extinction.
Divided into chapters determined by the months of the year, the work follows the artist’s itinerant life, and has been filmed in various locations including São Paulo, Krabi in Thailand and Nottingham in the UK.
The artist’s thinking about the film traces back to his 2009 piece I Know Where I’m Going for which he met with Geologist Professor Jan Zalasiewicz, of the University of Leicester. In the earlier work the scientist discusses with Rivers what traces might or might not be left of human existence in the geological records in 100 million years time. Zalasiewicz introduced Rivers to his concept of ‘Ghost Strata’ - the missing elements from within the rock faces that despite their absence offer hints of what was once there.
In March 2018 Rivers met with Professor Zalasiewicz again, in a former railway tunnel in central Nottingham, to revisit this notion. The tunnel, carved out of the city’s sandstone cliffs, allows the viewer glimpses into a mixture of geological and anthropological traces left over millennia of sedimentation and revealed by human intervention.
About the artist:
Ben Rivers (b 1972) is an artist and experimental filmmaker based in London. Rivers studied Fine Art at Falmouth School of Art, initially in sculpture before moving into photography and super8 film. After his degree he taught himself 16mm filmmaking and hand-processing. His practice as a filmmaker treads a line between documentary and fiction. Often following and filming people who have in some way separated themselves from society, the raw film footage provides Rivers with a starting point for creating oblique narratives imagining alternative existences in marginal worlds.
He is the recipient of numerous prizes including: FIPRESCI International Critics Prize, 68th Venice Film Festival for his first feature film Two Years At Sea; the Baloise Art Prize, Art Basel 42, 2011; shortlisted for the Jarman Award 2010/2012; Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Artists, 2010. Recent exhibitions include: Slow Action, Hepworth Wakefield, 2012; Sack Barrow, Hayward Gallery, London, 2011; Slow Action, Matt’s Gallery, London and Gallery TPW, Toronto, 2011; A World Rattled of Habit, A Foundation, Liverpool, 2009. Artist-in-focus include Courtisane Festival; Pesaro International Film Festival; London Film Festival; Tirana Film Festival; Punto de Vista, Pamplona; Indielisboa and Milan Film Festival.
In 1996 he co-founded Brighton Cinematheque which he then co-programmed through to its demise in 2006 – renowned for screening a unique programme of film from its earliest days through to the latest artist’s film and video.
Rivers is represented by Kate MacGarry Gallery, London.
'Ghost Strata' by Ben Rivers, UK, 2019, 45 minutes, B&W/Colour, Stereo, 4:3, Original format: 16mm film.
Images: Courtesy of Ben Rivers and LUX, London.